When Mr. Tushman called my house to ask if I would show a new kid with a "slight deformity" in his face, I was expecting someone with a cleft palate in their lip or something. This kid's so ugly, I can't even describe it. My mom thought it was a very kind thing to do, and she had seen him around town, at the grocery store, and at the park, so she knew how people were mean to him. She told me I didn't have to, but "strongly encouraged" me to, and told me to be nice, whatever I do. I was as nice to him as I could be...until we got to the auditorium. I was really starting to wonder about his face, so I asked him: "Can I ask you a question?" To this, he shrugged. "What's the deal with your face? I mean, were you in a fire or something?" Charlotte's face crinkled with disgust as she said, "Julian, that's so rude!" Then we went on arguing about how Mr. Tushman told us we could ask questions, blah blah blah. It was a legitimate question! I never did really get an answer though, and it made me mad that he could take a hit so lightly. Most kids would crinkle up crying, or punch me, but at that moment I knew, all I really wanted was to break this kid.
Jack and August
"Okay, so partners for your science projects!" Ms. Rubin said, looking around the class. "Reid and Tristan, Maya and Max, Charlotte and Ximena, August and Jack..." I was disgusted. I was there when Mr. Tushman told us to be extra nice to everyone, and Jack was trying to rack up points with the teachers by being best friends with him all year. Sometimes I thought maybe the staff had bribed him with good grades. I hated it, so I decided to talk to Jack after class. "...Miles and Amos, Julian and Henry..." I tuned out again.
I was thinking, Jack and August, sitting in a tree, the two best friends that could ever be. First comes the ugliness, then comes the deformity, then Jack goes and ditches me. I had tried multiple times to get Summer and Jack to stop being friends with him. I know that Mr. Tushman didn't ask Summer to be nice, but I just don't understand how she can find anyone who looks like that easy to be around.
On Halloween this year, I dressed up as Darth Sidious. One of my more favorite characters from Star Wars is Jango Fett, but the second I found out that "the freak" was coming as Boba Fett, I quickly changed my costume to last year's. There was no way I would be going as a "relative" of his.
During our homeroom in Ms. Petosa's classroom, Jack Will, dressed as a mummy, and I were having a conversation about August. I said something about how I would put a hood over my face every day if I looked like that, and Jack Will responded with that he would kill himself. This really shocked me.
"Tushman asked me to hang out with him at the beginning of the year, and he must have told all the teachers to put us next to each other in all our classes, or something."
A little while after this, the bleeding scream from from a few desks away quickly rushed out of the room. "What's their problem? Are they like sick or something? And where's August?" I asked, getting impatient to make fun of his costume, although a Boba Fett never walked through that door.
The "August Disease"
Yep, I invented it. It is my masterpiece. I don't know how gullable every kid in our grade is, but they all believed me when I told them during the second week or so of school, that August had a contagious disease and the only way for everyone not to catch it was to stay six feet away from him at all times. I called it the Plague. Also, I edited out his face in the class picture, which was actually surprisingly easy. Although, the editing system I used didn't recognize his face. It was the computer, not me. Anyways, I also held this amazing holiday party over Winter Break, and everyone was there. Except for August and Jack. At this party, I kind of switched everyone and told them they had to pick a side. Mine or August's. There were a few people that wanted to stay out of the drama and were called "neutrals," but the majority of the kids were on my side. I was very happy at this, and, quite frankly, not surprised at all.
At the end of year celebration in the auditorium, I was very surprised when August won the Henry Ward Beecher award. That award was mine! I sucked up to every teacher and tried very hard on all of my assignments, double and even triple checking my answers! I still think he only got that award because of his "slight" facial deformity. Everyone suddenly switched sides, including Miles and Henry. I don't understand! How can people be so nice to someone who was meant to be bullied? I like to think I am fulfilling my duties as a bully by breaking down August's overconfidence. At least next year I will have a new wimp to bully at my new school.
Secrets. We all have them, whether it’s big or small. Some people keep secrets to avoid getting in trouble, they’re embarrassed, or maybe they’re afraid of what others would think if their secret got out. I have a secret that could change how people see me. Everyday I carry around lies that continuously grow, crushing me in the process. At school all of the kids see me as the coolest guy in school, best athlete, most popular. At school, I’m the guy, the one that everyone wants to be friends with. Therefore, I got superiority over my peers.
It was strange because, suddenly, if we were friends, you were “cool” and if not… you were a “loser”. To sit by me at lunch was considered a privilege. At first the attention was uncomfortable, but I quickly grew accustomed to it. I even added to it until I got myself a reputation as Mr. Popularity. That’s the reason for my secret. I mean, I can’t simply ruin something that I’ve worked so hard at. That’s why when August came to Beecher Prep, things got complicated for me. You see, his face didn’t bother me, but I couldn’t be nice to him because then my friends would think I’m a freak. To uphold my image, I did anything I could to make August unwelcome at our school. I hated it, but bullying him was my only option. I feel bad for August, and guilty for doing it. That’s actually my problem, my secret. I don’t hate August, I’m his biggest fan. I admire him for all he’s been through and how strong he is. Auggie is the coolest person at school, even if nobody else knows it. However, people can’t know my secret, and if I can help it, they never will.
Congratulations to our first Writing Contest winners:
- Grade 5 - Miles Beach, Menasha
- Grade 6 - Esther Hammen, Little Chute
- Grade 7 - Grace Sprangers, Kaukauna
- Grade 8 - Jennifer Bradle, Freedom
And our overall winner is... Miles Beach!
Each student will receive a winning certificate via email. We are also still working on bringing Palacio to the Fox Cities before the end of the school year, so the winning students will be able to enjoy lunch with our author and receive an autographed copy of the book. We will post new dates for the author visit as soon as they become available.
Congratulations to our winners! And thank you to all of the schools, teachers, and students who honored us with your entries. We are proud of the work of our Fox Cities students!
The winning essays will be posted on this site throughout the week, so stay tuned!
If you participated in the Fox Cities Reads Writing Contest, please print a copy of our Participant Certificate! You can fill in your name and name of your school to save for your school portfolio.
Teachers, if your class participated, please consider printing & completing the certificates for your students.
Thanks again to everyone who sent in a WONDER-filled essay!
We'd like to send a HUGE thank you out to all of the schools and students who participated in the first ever Fox Cities Reads Writing Contest! We are reviewing the entries and hope to announce the winners by the end of the week.
HUGE thanks also go to Shari Kleist and her amazing team of volunteer judges who read their way through all of the entries! Thank you so much for all of your hard work and incredible enthusiasm.
It is with regret that we inform our Fox Cities Reads community that due to a family emergency R.J. Palacio will not be able to join us next week as planned. We understand that one of the things that has made this such a special event is having the Reads author appear in person during the Fox Cites Book Festival, and we are working with Ms. Palacio and her representatives to set up new dates for her visit. As soon as we have new dates we will get them out to you. Thank you for your support.
MR. BROWNE'S SEPTEMBER PRECEPT:
WHEN GIVEN THE CHOICE BETWEEN BEING RIGHT OR BEING KIND, CHOOSE KIND.
Auggie's English teacher, Mr. Browne, welcomes his fifth-grade students on the first day of school at Beecher Prep by writing this word on the chalkboard in big, block letters: P-R-E-C-E-P-T. He shares with the class that precepts are "rules about really important things" - they can be mottos, famous quotes, motivational and inspirational sayings, ground rules for living, and so on.
"Basically," Mr. Browne says, "a precept is anything that helps guide us when making decisions about really important things." Things like who we are as individuals and what we hold dear. "Choose kind," one of the themes of "Wonder," is the main message within the precept on the chalkboard in Mr. Browne's class for the month of September.
Fox Cities Reads is inviting readers to complete a fun "Wonder"-related assignment: Pick a precept that personally resonates in your life. The precept can be a quote or saying with which you identify, from "Wonder" or any other source. Or, challenge yourself to write your own precept!
- Write the precept on a postcard of your choice.
- Sign your postcard with your name and your community of residence or (for students) the name of your school.
- Mail postcards to one of Fox Cities Reads' participating public libraries: Appleton, Kaukauna, Kimberly, Little Chute, Menasha and Neenah. Or, stop by one of the libraries to drop them off.
- The libraries will collect the postcards now through April 13, the final day of the Fox Cities Book Festival.
- Each library will display the postcards it receives.
- By guest blogger Kara Patterson, Library Assistant, Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library
Bullying, although never justified, can be a cry for help.
In the 2014 Fox Cities Reads' book Wonder by R.J. Palacio, the main character, Auggie, meets Julian the first time Auggie walks through the doors of his new school, Beecher Prep. Julian is one of the incoming fifth-graders who is assigned to be a buddy to Auggie, show him around and make him feel comfortable.
The day they meet, Julian starts to treat Auggie meanly. Auggie learns this is nothing new - Julian has a track record for being unkind to his peers.
Julian's family is well-off financially and he has allowed that to start defining who he is and befriends. But later on in the book, Auggie seems to suspect that Julian may envy the security and support Auggie receives at home.
A Fox Cities Reads youth writing contest is asking fifth- through eighth-grade readers of Wonder - those who are in their middle school years, like Auggie and Julian - to tell Julian's side of the story.
Different characters, including Auggie, his friends, his older sister and her boyfriend, share their takes on life in chapters of Wonder. However, we don't hear from Julian in a chapter of his own. The contest calls for students to pick an event or chapter in Wonder and write a piece from Julian's perspective.
Teachers, this is a great opportunity for a creative writing classroom exercise based on a hot topic and an awesome read!
Participants must submit their pieces via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by March 12.
There is no fee to enter the contest.
Trained volunteer judges will score the entries using a points-based system that Fox Cities Reads plans to make available for online viewing.
There will be one winner per grade level, and from those, one first-place contest winner. All winners will receive an invite to attend a luncheon with author Palacio during her visit to the Fox Cities this April. The first-place winner will read his or her creative writing piece at one of the author's community presentations.
For full contest details, visit foxcitiesreads.org/content/writing-contest.
- By guest blogger Kara Patterson, Library Assistant, Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library